1“To the angel of the church in Sardis write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. 3Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. 4Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. 5He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. 6He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
– Revelation 3:1-6
If you want God’s prescription for a dying or dead church, this is it. Five things God wants from his people when they are no longer serving their purpose on earth – Wake up! Strengthen what little remains! Remember…Obey…Repent! The hardest part is for the dead or dying church to realize they are in need of waking, to recognize their own weakness, to understand the scope of their forgetfulness, to characterize disobedience as obedience, and to think repentance is for someone else.
Many people believe that the problem at Sardis was total cultural compromise. They stood out in the city as prominent and successful. But in order to do so they had blended themselves so thoroughly into the surrounding culture that you really couldn’t tell them apart from anyone else. Could it be a problem if the world starts recognizing Christians as “alive”? Not always. But in some cases it might just mean that we fit their definition of what living is all about and, in reality, be dead or at least on spiritual life support.
Corporate repentance is not something we see in the church today. Remembrance is something we do well together. But repentance is reserved for individuals, not congregations. Yet, there can be a time and place for a congregation to realize how wrong they have been, how they have missed the mark, or how their attitudes have been less than Christian and make a congregational turn back to God. This is easier to identify in past generations of Christians than it is to identify and come to grips with what we face today. We can point back to the horrific nature of the Crusades to the cultural compromise of segregation in the churches.
What issues face Christianity today that we are in need of recognizing and repenting of?